What Punishment Does Greg Gianforte Face if Convicted of Assault?

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Greg Gianfote, who is running to represent Montana in the House of Representatives. (Getty)

A candidate for Congress has been charged with misdemeanor assault after allegedly body slamming a political reporter on the eve of his election. Because so many citizens have already voted early, it’s still likely that Republican Greg Gianforte will win the Montana special election today. But looking further ahead, what punishment does he face if he’s convicted for this assault charge?

Montana Code § 45-5-201 states that the punishment for misdemeanor assault is a fine of up to $500 and a jail sentence of up to six months.

Montana’s legal code also makes clear that there are four circumstances under which a person can be found guilty of assault. First, the person purposely or knowingly caused bodily injury to another person. Second, they negligently caused bodily injury to another person using a weapon. Third, they purposely or knowingly made physical contact of an insulting or provoking nature with a person. And fourth, they purposely or knowingly caused “reasonable apprehension of bodily injury” in another person.

In order to be found guilty of misdemeanor assault, then, the accused must have purposely injured the victim, and so causing accidental bodily harm would not count. But how exactly does Montana define “purposely and knowingly”? Well, § 45-2-101 states that purposely means the person has the “conscious object to engage in that conduct or to cause that result.” And knowingly is defined by the fact that the person “is aware that it is highly probable that the result will be caused” by their actions.

The state also defines “bodily injury” as “physical pain, illness, or an impairment of physical condition and includes mental illness or impairment.”

So do Greg Gianforte’s actions qualify? It’s safe to say that he caused bodily injury to reporter Ben Jacobs, as Jacobs was taken away from the scene in an ambulance, being brought to a hospital and receiving an x-ray. While there is no video of the incident, there is audio of it. On the tape, Jacobs is heard asking a question about health care when Gianforte suddenly snaps and attacks him, yelling, “Get the hell out of here! Get the hell out of here!”

In a statement released after the incident, the Greg Gianforte campaign did not deny that this incident took place. Rather, they said that Jacobs was being provocative and was asked to leave. However, in the audio of the incident, Gianforte never asks Jacob to leave.

“After asking Jacobs to lower the recorder, Jacobs declined,” the statement says, though this also does not happen in the audio recording. “Greg then attempted to grab the phone that was pushed in his face. Jacobs grabbed Greg’s wrist and spun away from Greg, pushing them both to the ground.”

Several other reporters who were present for the incident have backed up Ben Jacobs’ account, including Fox News reporter Alicia Acuna, who said, “…Gianforte grabbed Jacobs by the neck with both hands and slammed him into the ground behind him…Gianforte then began punching the man, as he moved on top the reporter and began yelling something to the effect of ‘I’m sick and tired of this!’”

On Wednesday evening, Brian Gootkin, the sheriff of Gallatin County, said that “[t]he nature of the injuries did not meet the statutory elements of felony assault.” However, he said that there was “probable cause to issue a citation to Greg Gianforte for misdemeanor assault.”

Montana Code § 45-5-202 states that felony assault involves a person purposely or knowingly causing “serious bodily injury” to another person (as opposed to just “bodily injury” in the misdemeanor definition). A person convicted of felony assault in Montana faces up to 20 years in jail and/or a fine of up to $50,000.

One recent instance of a person of authority being charged with misdemeanor assault in Montana came in 2016 when a Montana cop was charged after a man said that the cop “jumped out and came running toward me” and “started beating on my arm.” The man said that his arm hurt for a week afterwards. This cop was cited for assault the next day, and he ended up being found guilty and receiving a deferred imposition of sentence and a $340 fine, according to the Billings Gazette.

Greg Gianforte must appear in Gallatin County Justice Court between now and June 7th.

17 Comments

17 Comments

Anonymous

Good thing for Gianforte that the sheriff is a Gianforte backer!

JOHN MAYOR...

The issue isn’t his punishment!… the issue is finding a suitable Candidate for Montana! And if it’s not Rob Quist!… it could very well be an INDEPENDENT! And so… frankly!… any further discussion re Greg Gianforte, is a waste of CONSCIONABLE VOTERS’ time!
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Please!… no emails!

timefortrump

Nope – this is a totally fake altercation INSTIGATED by Ben Jacobs – FAKE REPORTER. The Dimms already had an ad prepared on this even before the alleged assault – that’s all you need to know – oh and Ben Jacobs actually grabbed the wrist of Gianforte and pulled them both down – I hope Gianforte charges HIM with assault!

Anonymous

I did think it was a little strange that Gianforte said “Are you from The Guardian?” as if he knew it was them and that they caused problems before. That wasn’t hard to figure out. Had to scratch my head on that one. With the way things are going, I don’t doubt your story but I still am confident that your illegitimate POTUS and his gang of 5th Amendment criminals will be gone soon enough. Politicians are POS in any party, anyway. Hopefully, we can agree on that.

Anonymous

So, the Fox news reporters are all lying . . . but I thought Trumpies LOVED Fox News . . . guess you’re more of a fan of that paragon of journalism– Alex Jones! LMAO! Or, maybe you prefer sexual predators like Bill O’Reilly. The fact is, Jacobs wrote an unflattering story about Gianforte a month or so ago, and just like his mentor, Donnie-the-Thug-in-Chief, he couldn’t stand the fact that all do worship at his feet. He was already pissed at Jacobs. Gianforte’s just another blowhard conservative billionaire trying to buy his way into office, who, btw, if elected, will get an $800K tax cut if Trumpcare passes.

Anonymous

Ben Jacobs has been a reporter with the Guardian for a number of years . . . if you knew how to read, or watched something besides Alex Jones or Sean Hannity, you’d know that!

Ron Fox

Right because the Fox News witness is a liberal shill? I imagine we’ll see this all play out in court.

Dave

Actually Ben Jacobs is a well respected reporter. The assault is well corroborated by an audio recording and eye-witnesses who are Fox News contributors. What is more important to you, being Republican or being honest? Do you respect your team or do you respect the truth? I think if you do some self searching, you will see your personal bias. How can we talk about real issues and solve problems if people treat politics the way you do?